Microsoft goes toe to toe with Netflix

Xbox Originals LogoMicrosoft’s vision of its Xbox One is becoming apparent to the public as the company recently announced it would be making original shows exclusively to its customers.  HBO started this trend with shows like The Sopranos and Sex & the City, Netflix has been doing this for quite some time and it has proven to be a very successful formula for them, with hit shows like House of Cards, now Microsoft aims to take it a step beyond with big budget shows like Halo and interactivity through Kinect.

We are developing premium, original content for the Xbox community which is an audience we are incredibly respectful of,” said Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios. “We believe Xbox Originals should embrace the way our fans think about traditional TV.” Tellem’s creative vision involves year-round, high-quality programs based on subjects gamers care about, with interactive features tailored to each show.

There are 12 different projects in the works and we expect so see some of these unveiled at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the most notable of these productions is Halo. There will be two separate scripted projects on the “Halo” Franchise.  Halo is arguably the game that made the Xbox brand what it is today, Xbox Live exploded with users because of Halo in the original Xbox era.  Halo has built has such a massive following through games, and its popular books that have seen regular releases since 2001, that it has become a multi-billion dollar franchise of its own.  Halo games alone have sold over 50 million copies and have grossed almost $3.4billion.  There are over 15 Halo novels written by world renowned authors such as Greg Bear. The Halo universe is vast and has many stories to tell, it is of a dark toned nature, and with the recent announcement that Ridley Scott will be producing this series, Halo fans can rest assured that their beloved franchise is in good hands.

“I know full well from my years spent at traditional TV networks that creating a lineup of hit shows isn’t easy. It’s the beginning of a long journey, but we’re incredibly excited to be on our way,” Tellem said.

There are over 80 Million Xbox’s 360’s sold worldwide, 5 million Xbox Ones and roughly 250 million Windows 8 users – this is a massive reach Microsoft has with its audience, we still don’t know how they will use this new service to deliver all these projects, will they be available on all Microsoft powered devices and operating systems running the Xbox Video app? Will they require some sort of subscription? Is it only free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers? Maybe it will require an even more premium Xbox subscription, Xbox Live Gold is about $60/year currenty.  Either way Microsoft seems to have a big audience they can work with, in comparison Netflix has just surpassed 35 million paying subscribers.

What Microsoft needs now is an Apple TV/Roku/Amazon Fire TV competitor – an Xbox version that doesn’t play games, an Xbox that costs $99-$150 and does everything else today’s Xbox One does but with a Kinect included.  There have been rumors of Microsoft planning to subsidize the Xbox One through cable companies and internet service providers, this could be a momentous achievement as it can open the door to not just the 80 million customers its predecessor achieved in 8 years, but potentially hundreds of Millions of customers.

It seems the original content is the way to go these days as even more companies are getting into this space – Amazon is going at it full force recently announcing deal with HBO.  Amazon Studios has already produced hit shows like Alpha House in 2013, and just a few months ago was renewed for a second season, more shows are on their way.

The battle for original content has just begun, Netflix has started something that’s proven to work, and it may be the secret sauce Microsoft needs to crack the TV market and drive more consumers to the Microsoft Cloud, we look forward to E3 this June as some of these shows are set to be unveiled.

New Surface Ads showcasing productivity in everyday life

Microsoft’s promotional campaign for their latest Surface 2 tablets, has been well under way. Releasing their first video last week, they showcased Lauren Brill, a baked goods business owner, who demonstrated how she uses her Windows RT device to simplify and bring efficiency to her work life.

The concept of exhibiting real life professionals in their work environment, continues this week with a video of Austin, Texas based wedding planner, Ashlee Voda. In this Youtube video featured on the Surface blog, we see Ashlee using Excel and the OneNote app to help organize planning details for her client’s wedding vision. She shows photos to the happy couples using Internet Explorer and then takes her own photos of wedding cake and venue options using her Surface 2 camera. She engages in drawing additions and making changes to both photos, using her stylus, in order to bring their collaborative vision to life.

Microsoft’s approach to marketing these tools has set out to be subtle, yet affective. They attempt to encourage an unexperienced tech audience to easily relate to the highlighted individuals. The video, while wrapped in an impressive and uplifting package, manages to get across just how straightforward and useful incorporating the tools into their workday can be.

Xbox Coming to China

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Microsoft announced on Tuesday that the Xbox One will begin selling its Xbox One entertainment console in China this September – they will work with a Chinese  firm called BesTV, a subsidiary of the Shanghai Media Group New Media to bring not only game content, but over-the-top television content.

Consoles in China have been banned since the early 2000’s but the ban was recently lifted in September of 2013 and Microsoft is preparing to launch the Xbox One in China this September.

Due to China’s rather large middle class that can afford $500+ for a gaming console, Microsoft is eager to enter such a market as it may gain the competitive edge by entering the market first, with no major competition.   According to Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s VP of Marketing,”The culture of games and entertainment is rapidly growing in China, with nearly half a billion people playing games – roughly a third of the country’s population and more than the entire population of North America.”

The biggest challenge will likely be converting a culture of piracy and “free to play gaming” mind-set that is rampant in China and try to make people pay for something they are used to getting for free. The wide-spread piracy is also a concern for Microsoft as it will be the target of hackers and pirates who are looking to counterfeit their products and content.  To combat this, Microsoft will need to work closely with the Chinese government.

Microsoft’s Xbox sales are at about 5 Million while Sony’s PlayStation 4 has surpassed 7 million. As this console war rages on, Microsoft looks to increase its sales figures by being the first console to launch in China.  Sony launched its console in over 54 markets while the Xbox One is available in 13, but the surprise comes as the PS4 is outselling the Xbox One in its strongest market, the US.  Although it is only a very slight lead, last generation the Xbox 360 handily outsold its rival.  The PS4 is $100 cheaper than the Xbox which comes with a Kinect sensor.  However the Xbox 360 was a complete failure in Japan last generation, it’s almost as if purchasing an Xbox was considered a sin in Japan.  China may tell a different story as Sony is not a Chinese brand, but we will follow the trend and watch how Microsoft plays in the Chinese market.

YouTube: Xbox One Coming to China (Microsoft)

Windows Tablets take 6% market Share

 

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Microsoft got into this new generation of mobile devices very late, well…to be fair they started the mobile space with their tablets and Windows Mobile phones. Hardware wasn’t ready for these types of devices in the early 2000’s, they were bulky, capacitive touch wasn’t available, they had poor battery life while being extremely expensive. In 2007 Apple changed the landscape with the release of the Iphone and the release of the Ipad in 2009, Android followed soon with Microsoft’s PC model, in which OEM’s license and install it on their own devices.

Microsoft started with Windows Phone in 2010 and Windows 8 in 2012, many years after IOS and Android became established mobile OS’s in the market, Microsoft is paying the price now and playing catch-up to its competitors. Once a mighty giant amongst its rivals Apple and Google, who were knocking on the door years ago but couldn’t reach the handle to open it, now they grew so big that they completely smashed the door and started to occupy.

According to Strategy Analytics Windows powered tablets captured 6% of global tablet share in Q1 2014, that would equate to roughly 3.5million tablets. Android remains on top with a commanding 66% global share while Apple’s IOS fell to 28%.

Microsoft is fighting back with its recent announcement to give Windows away for free on tablets 9” or smaller, this may provide a major uptick in share due to the OS being free now. Microsoft’s still doesn’t offer its own sub 9” tablet to compete with Apples Ipad Mini and Androids offerings, with the rumoured release of the Surface Mini being sometime in May ,we could see the tablet landscape start to shift more positively for Microsoft.

Total shipments of tablets reached 57.6million unit globally in Q1 2014, up 19% from 48.3 million in Q1 of 2013. Android climbs steadily and commands two-thirds of the market, while Apple managed to ship 16.4 million Ipads, Strategy Analytics believes that Apples iOS platform will continue to lose share over the next few months to refreshed Android devices, but to eventually make a comeback during final months of the calendar.

It will be interesting to see how these tech giants try to make progress in this growing tablet market, and what Microsoft can do to catch up to its rivals. In the past Microsoft used its commanding presence and balance sheet to overcome for being late to the market, and still managed to crush competition, such as Corel’s Word perfect, the famous Netscape Navigator and AOL’s messaging service. It has been said that Microsoft innovates best when playing catch-up, but times have changed and its competitors grew unexpectedly fast and powerful, not only having a commanding lead in market share, but they command the mindshare amongst consumers.  What can Microsoft do to overcome this?

Microsoft making Big budget Halo movie series and many more

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For almost a year, Microsoft has been tantalizing us with the possibility of dabbling into the world of TV series. Well that time has finally arrived and beginning this June, Microsoft will be officially releasing a handful of shows, covering a wide array of topics and formats that will entice gamers and none-gamers alike. Titled “Xbox Originals”, the shows will vary from premium dramas, documentaries and comedies to live events, unscripted series and even animation.

“We’re looking for things that are smart, disruptive, a little noisy and captivating,” – TV executive Nancy Tellem.


But that’s not all, Microsoft will be offering exciting and original interactive features, customized to each show. Viewers will able to do more than just sit back and watch TV in a traditional manner. For a glimpse into these unique built it features, the live broadcast of the “Bonnaroo music festival” will be the first official event to kick-start the content. Viewers will be able to engage in backstage Q&A with the artists over Skype, and even change viewing angles and stage preferences. Keep in mind, depending on what system you are using, the capabilities will vary. Since Xbox Ones comes with Kinect some features may not work as well on the senescent Xbox 360.

With a slew of industry veterans and world renowned talent on board, Xbox Originals will consist of the following committed projects:

“Halo”
Steven Spielberg will be executive producing a digital feature based on the “Halo” franchise, which is set to be released this November. It has been confirmed that the man behind Alien and Blade Runner (most recently the film Prometheus) Ridley Scott, will be producing his own separate project that will surprisingly not include Master Chief.

“Humans”
A sci-fi show based off a Swedish series about domestic robotic servants called “Synths” that rebel against their human masters.

“Signal to Noise”/“Atari: Game Over”
A documentary detailing technology’s impact on the world. “Atari: Game over”, focuses on the excavation of rumoured 2600 copies of Atari’s infamous failed E.T. video game buried in the landfill of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

“Every Street United”
Airing this June, this will be an unscripted series hosted by legendary soccer stars, Thierry Henry and Edgar Davids, who set out across eight different countries to discover their next big soccer prodigies. The finale and final street soccer match, amongst candidates, will takes place in conjunction with the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

Still in development are the following projects:

“Deadlands”
Based on a role playing game, this series binds western and horror genres to bring you monsters, gunfighters, sorceress, mad scientists and other supernatural beings destined to fight evil.

“Winterworld”
Based on a novel by Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino, this show will depict a frozen post-apocalyptic world, and the brutal human struggle to survive in it.

“Extraordinary Believers”
A hybrid stop-motion show executive produced by creators of “Robot Chicken”, Seth Green and Matt Senreich.

“Fearless”
In this unscripted series Paul de Gelder, the famous shark attack survivor and navy diver, will set out on a spine-tingling journey to help other adrenaline enthusiasts make the world a better place .

“Gun Machine”
Based on a gripping novel by Warren Ellis, about a detective seeking out a serial killer who is involved with the load of weaponry related to notorious murders in New York city.

Untitled JASH Comedy/Variety Half Hour
Comedy’s biggest names, Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Eric and Reggie Watts, will host a show uncovering comedic talent that they find stirring. Jimmy Kimmel will be executive producing.

Source: Xbox.com

Skype group calling is now free for everyone!

Skype group video calling is finally free for all Windows, Mac and Xbox One users, according to Phillip Snalune from Skype Blog. He adds “Now that Skype group video calling is available to everyone, free of charge, it makes our group conversations even easier!” – previously, this premium feature used to cost $8.99/month. “For the last few years, we’ve offered group video calling to Premium users on Windows desktop and Mac and more recently Xbox One. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re making group video calling free – for all users on these platforms.” Microsoft recommends calls with up to five people maximum for optimal performance as “fair usage policy” applies.

Google Hangouts pioneered group chat when it was launched on May 15, 2013 as a free service, but now that Skype is free for group chat, this popular application will be even more attractive to individuals looking to chat with friends and family as well as business users looking to have a virtual meeting or a conference call. Give it a try!

Article Source/Media Credit: Skype Blog

Windows Phone 8.1's New API's Spawn First Full Fledged Video Editor

The Windows Phone Store hasn’t had a proper video editing app, however it has plenty of video trimmers, with the recent Windows Phone 8.1 update developers now have access to more API’s, this spawned Windows Phone’s first full featured video editing app, it’s called Movie Maker 8.1.

It allows users control of every frame in the movie and lets users mix videos, photos, and music to create.  The user interface is beautiful and streamlined and the app will allow users to extract mp3 from a video and offers a 10x slow motion effect

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wp_ss_20140428_0006Features of the App:

Adding Video

• Pick any video from your phone video library or the camera

• Trim, crop and split clips

• Set clip volume level

• Copy, paste and delete clips at any position

• Use simple playback controls to review clips

• Real time preview in which you can zoom

Background tasks

• Pick any sound and music file from your phone

• Trim, crop and split tracks

Set track volume level

• Copy, paste and delete tracks at any position

• Use simple playback controls to review tracks

Adding Images

• Pick any image from your phone picture library or camera roll

set duration, trim, crop and split the clips

• Apply the awesome Nokia filter effects

The app costs $1.49 and is created by Vanetasoft, this is not the official Microsoft Movie Maker which is part of Windows Live essentials

 

Nokia's new ad emphasizing that Lumias are different

Nokia has posted a new ad to promote its Lumia line of products just a few days after the acquisition of their Devices and Services business by Microsoft was completed.

This ad  features the sound track from The Kinks, ‘Not like everybody else’ to show that Nokia Lumia smartphones are different from other smartphones on the market. The video portrays a black & world which represents other smartphones while the Nokia Lumia devices stand out from the crowd. It’s an interesting ad which shows one of the ways the Lumia line of smartphones differentiates from the competition.

Microsoft completes Nokia acquisition

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for Microsoft and marks the end of one for Nokia.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said:

“Today we welcome the Nokia Devices and Services business to our family. The mobile capabilities and assets they bring will advance our transformation. Together with our partners, we remain focused on delivering innovation more rapidly in our mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

Credit: Microsoft.com
Credit: Microsoft.com

The completion of sale announced almost eight months ago of Nokia’s Devices and Services Division to Microsoft has been concluded.  As of today about 30,000 employees from Nokia will be full time employees at Microsoft.  However most of these employees are factory workers in many of the Nokia plants worldwide, as Nokia makes their own devices and doesn’t contract out to Foxcon or Pegatron like many companies including Apple do.  Microsoft has acquired 130 sites across 50 different countries to produce mobile hardware with this acquisition, this makes Microsoft a major mobile hardware manufacturer as it begins a massive integration with Nokia’s workforce and establishments. Employees that worked at Nokia’s headquarters in Espoo Finland, will remain there, this building has been sold under the leadership of Stephen Elop, which now is leased by Nokia.

Stephen Elop will lead the Microsoft Devices group business which include Xbox hardware, Surface, Perceptive Pixel, Lumia smartphones and tablets, and accessories such as mice and keyboards.

Stephen Elop on the Nokia Conversations blog wrote:

Today we are announcing that the acquisition of substantially all of the Nokia Devices and Services business by Microsoft has reached completion, following approval by Nokia shareholders and regulatory authorities.

Six months ago, we announced our plans to bring the best of Microsoft and Nokia Devices and Services business together. Today is an exciting day as we join the Microsoft family, and take the first, yet important, step in our long-term journey.

At our core, we are passionate about building technology that will change the world. From the early vision of Microsoft of placing a PC in every home and on every desk, to Nokia connecting billions of people through mobile devices, we have empowered generations. But we could not have achieved any of this without our fans around the world.

Your support has created strong momentum for Nokia Lumia smartphones and they continue to grow in popularity around the world. Last year alone, the awards, accolades and fan-generated rave reviews offered proof of the growing number of champions for our phones and tablets.

And we are committed to continuing our support for feature phones, the Asha family, and the Nokia X family of devices, announced at the Mobile World Congress in February.

Whether you want to read more, capture more, watch more, listen more or get more done, Nokia mobile devices have been and are your go-to choice.

As Microsoft and Nokia Devices and Services come together as an expanded family, we will unify our passion, dedication and commitment to bringing you the best of what our joint technologies have to offer.

Together, we can connect and empower people with one experience for everything in their life in a world where it is mobile first and cloud first.

From today onwards, the possibilities are endless. As now, we’re one!

Stephen

On Monday, April 28 at 1PM GMT, Stephen Elop will answer your questions live in our first-ever worldwide “Ask Me Anything” session here on Conversations. You don’t need to do anything to sign up. If you can’t make it, don’t worry: we’ll post a replay afterwards.

Source: http://conversations.nokia.com/2014/04/25/now-one-microsoft-open-letter-stephen-elop/

The Chinese regulatory government was one of the reasons for the delay as Google and Samsung were lobbying against the purchase, claiming that Microsoft could potentially be even more hostile with patent lawsuits towards Android OEMs.  The majority of Android OEM’s are already paying Microsoft a rumoured $3-$10/Android handset including Samsung, who is currently in a major legal dispute with Apple.  Another reason is due to tax disputes with the Indian government for a Nokia manufacturing plant for over $600 million, Microsoft is rumoured to be abandoning this plant.

Nokia will still exist, primarily as a network infrastructure (NSN) business, together with its strategically important maps (HERE) along with its research and intellectual property (Advanced Technologies) businesses.

Nokia will not be allowed to pursue the mobile phone business until late 2015, which will be a highly unlikely scenario for Nokia.

Consumers will not notice any immediate impact of this acquisition, as Microsoft will continue to manage Nokia’s device operations, including device warranties and support. In additional, Microsoft will manage Nokia.com and their associate social channels up to one year.

The two companies have work closely together designing and building Lumia devices since their announced partnership in February 2011. Questions still remain whether Microsoft will continue to use the Lumia name for their phones since they now own the rights to it, and whether the Nokia tablet will be discontinued or kept alongside the Surface. It will also be interesting to see how Nokia’s design team may impact future designs of Microsoft’s Surface line of products. There are major cultural differences between the two companies and only time will tell how they will work together to continue growing in this highly competitive market.

 

Surface Mini to be released May 18th?

surface_mini3The long awaited 8-inch version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet was first rumored to be released last fall. After facing some major supply chain issues with the existing line of Surface tablets, Microsoft decided to put the Mini production on hold, instead of releasing a product for sale that nobody could actually get their hands on for a very long time.

Although Microsoft won’t confirm any reports, according to Tom’s Hardware, “The latest rumor surrounding the unannounced Surface Mini tablet is that Microsoft will market the tablet as a note-taking device, complete with a stylus.”. There are also rumors circulating that the stylus will in fact be a digitizing pen rather than a traditional capacitive stylus. We also anticipate that the Mini will ship with Windows 8.1 Update 1 which means users will benefit from some of the key features that Update 1 brings including reduced OS weight.

In a recent development, China’s Vostrostone, online electronics retailer, has posted up for sale the new Smart Cover Case for Surface Mini along with many high resolution photos of the case as well as what appears to be an 8-inch Windows tablet acting as a placeholder – this does not appear to be the new Surface Mini, however. The case is going for around $10 and order date is May 18th which would suggest that is roughly (or perhaps precisely!) when Microsoft will release the new Surface Mini. The smart case will be available in Black, White, Blue and Red.

Further, the product description reads:

“Fantastic looking case for your precious Microsoft Surface Mini tablet. There are plenty of cases out there but this is built to last with style. Made of premium PU leather, this flip case will wear well and maintain the look of your device. Design allows for full access to touch screen, side buttons, charging & headset ports and camera. Well built to protect your Microsoft Surface Mini tablet for the years to come. “

The cover can be bought here: VSTN ® Microsoft Surface Mini ultra-thin Smart Cover Case, Only fit Microsoft Surface Mini tablet (For Surface Mini, Black)

Here are the photos of the case with the mock device.

 

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